Man Made vs. Nature Made Global Warming Arguments With Merit

I’ve been concentrating on mostly arguments that AGW Deniers use that have little or no merit. In this post I’ll cover the AGW Denier arguments that I feel have some merit, though I’ll also explain why none of these arguments are sufficient to make me feel comfortable with the AGW Denier’s conclusions. In a future posts, I’ll address problems with AGW Believer’s arguments.

The “Earth is Absorbing the CO2 Anyway” Argument

One argument is that the earth is doing an amazingly good job of absorbing the extra CO2 that humans are putting out. Turns out, this is a correct argument.

I don’t think climate scientists really understood how good the oceans (and probably other mechanisms) are at absorbing CO2. About half of the CO2 surplus that we run just sort of disappears without a trace. The rest collects into the atmosphere.

First of all, this argument acknowledges that there is a CO2 surplus. As we’ll see in a future post, this is an important point.

I’ve even seen this argument extended out to include the idea that eventually the earth will absorb all the CO2 and we have nothing to worry about.

Unlike the arguments in my last post, this argument has real merit. In fact, it is at least possible that the earth is so much better at absorbing CO2 that the climate models all have it wrong – scientific consensus or not.

But the question I have to ask is this: how comfortable are you with this claim? I mean shouldn’t we be worried that the earth (through the oceans?) are only absorbing half of our surplus CO2 that we’re creating? Even if the earth could be counted on to eventually absorb the rest, wouldn’t we have to first stop the surplus and give it a chance to catch up? Wouldn’t we still have to at least cut back by half of the surplus?

Also, do we really know for sure that there isn’t a problem with letting the oceans absorb our surplus CO2? The AGW Believers claim that this makes the oceans acidic and could potentially destroy the food chain in the oceans. They claim that in a catastrophic case, it would be disastrous for all life.

Is this true? I have no idea. But that’s just the point. We really don’t know either way. For the moment, the prudent assumption would seem to be that we have a growing our CO2 and the earth isn’t keeping up. There simply is no evidence for any other scenario as of yet.

The “Global Warming is Just a Fancy Way of Saying Good Weather” Argument

Orson Scott Card particularly likes this argument. This argument is that global warming is real but natural. But even if it weren’t natural, it’s a good thing, so let’s keep it up. Typically this argument includes the idea that as CO2 goes up, plants grow better, life thrives, and we’re all happy. Heck, we’ll probably need the extra good weather to avoid a future ice age, so do your part in warming it up!

Again, this is an argument that has some merit. It is at least possible that global warming will turn out to be a good thing and it’s certainly going to be good up to a certain point. (See Medieval Warming Periods Argument below)

AGW Believers point out that a mere 2 degree cooler global average created an ice age before. The earth is right in the goldilocks zone, not too hot and not too cold. It is well known that the earth is always at risk of either becoming a massive ice block or a boiling soup. None of that is considered controversial.

What is debated is not if it’s possible to freeze or boil the earth, but only at what temperature levels the tipping point is reached. And the answer is that we just don’t know for sure.

Just to prove my point, look at this quote from physicist Frank Tipler. Bear in mind that Frank Tipler is a die hard AGW Denier.

The Earth’s atmosphere is finely balanced between runaway glaciation and runaway heating due to the greenhouse effect. Runaway glaciation can occur if the ice caps get too large: an increase in the ice caps cuase an increate in the amount of heath reflected back into space; this leads to a decrease in the surface temperature, which in turn causes the ice caps to beomce even larger… This process continues until the entire planet and all life is frozen solid.

Run away heating can occur if CO2 accumulates in the atmosphere. The added carbon dioxide causes the surface temperature to rise via the greenhouse effect, which in turn causes more CO2 to be released into the atmosphere from surface rocks. This in turn drives the temperature even higher, etc. This process continues until the oceans boil away… (The Anthropic Cosmological Principle, p. 567)

While the above quote sounds like a AGW Believer writing, this quote — in context — has nothing to do with AGW at all. It was merely a description of how fortuitous it is that our planet can sustain life at all. I suspect Tipler has yet to figure out that his own book has this passage that is potentially at odds with his own vehement AGW Denying.

In any case, we don’t really know at what point we will pass the tipping point and boil our earth. So this argument has some real merit. However, this is a sword that cuts both ways. It’s equally possible that the AGW Believers have underestimated the boiling point in their model. “We don’t know for sure” means just that. It could be better than we fear or it could be worse than we fear.

The “Medieval Global Warming Period” Argument

I couldn’t decide whether or not to put this argument into the “with” or “without” merit category. This argument actually does have merit, though not in the way it usually gets used. This argument is based on the belief that there was a global Medieval warming period.

I hear three arguments on this one: First, that the climate models don’t show this warming period, so the models must be wrong. Second, that there was no CO2 from industry back then, so this proves warming happens on its own. Third, that the warmer temperature was good, not bad, to the earth’s inhabitants.

The first argument, has merit. The second is a red herring and should be ignored. The third is the same as the one above.

It is true that some of the models don’t show the Medieval warming period. However, I noticed that An Inconvenient Truth did indeed show something that could pass as a Medieval warming period. However, one thing to keep in mind is that we don’t even know for sure that a global Medieval warming period took place. Certainly a regional one did, but we don’t have any proof that it was global in nature. So it’s impossible to pit this fact against the models. 

The second argument is (to use a stock market analogy again) like saying that because the stock market once went up due to one known cause that this proves the current stock market run, centuries later, must be the same cause. I trust you see the problem.

The main merit of this argument is that it does show how little we really know and it is at least suggestive that our models could be incomplete in ways we can’t even imagine.

The “It Will Cause an Economic Disaster” Argument

Vader at Jr Ganymede vocalized this argument well:

We don’t know if changing our output of CO2 will produce climate changes that are good or bad. We do know that reducing CO2 will do a lot of economic harm.

Ergo, take no action until we know more.

Of all the “good” AGW Denier arguments, this one is the “best” in my opinion. I am going to cover this argument – including why I don’t buy it – in a future post because it deserves considerable attention. But for now, let’s just admit that it’s based on a false dichotomy between doing nothing or doing what the liberals want us to do with no consideration for any other possibility.

The “They Lied So They Can’t be Trusted” Argument

John Stossil did a report on how Global Warming Scientists misrepresent their findings, at least at times. Of this, I have no doubt. So I’ll list this as an argument with merit and I’m going to cover it in more detail in my next post.

As I’ve shown in my past post: the Deniers are just as bad if not worse in this department. So we probably shouldn’t be drawing any conclusions about the AGW Believers as a whole, but instead about human nature as whole. Yet somehow, that makes my feel worse, not better.

More concerning are the charges that the IPCC actually listed AGW Deniers on the list of scientists that helped draw their conclusions and (as one claims) he had to sue to have his name removed.

The IPCC claims this isn’t what happened, and I confess, I don’t believe one incident like this proves the IPCC is being overtly deceptive. Doesn’t it really just demonstrate that the IPCC is a giant bureaucracy where the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing? Did you expect otherwise?

If the IPCC really did intentionally list all scientists involved, even ones that are AGW Deniers, but implied that they were AGW Believers, shame on them. But the fact that so few of these people came forward and complained suggests either a huge overwhelming consensus or that we just have a handful of mistakes. Either way, this argument isn’t as good as it first seems.

Also, remember the old saying to never confuse stupidity for malice.

The “Oil Will Run Out On Its Own” Argument

I think this is the second best argument with merit. The argument goes that we’ve already reached peak oil, so oil costs are going to rise on their own and alternative energy sources will be sought on their own, so a cap-and-trade policy is redundant and the problem will solve itself.

My concern with this argument is that it’s really just a huge warm and fuzzy guess on several fronts, the least of which is that we really have no idea if we’ve reached peak oil or not, much less how it will play out in connection with CO2 emissions.

And, truth be told, if there was a serious study predicting that peak oil was going to reduce CO2 emissions (there are none as far as I know) we would have greater cause to be skeptical of that study then we do of the current climate models because economic predictions have a success rate equal to chance.

Conclusions

Looking back over the last post and this one, I feel I can characterize my point of view on AGW Skeptic arguments by saying they are at their worst when they try to ‘prove’ Global Warming is not a problem and at their best when they stick with pointing out that we don’t know as much as we think we know.

In my following posts, I’ll discuss how I finally made sense of it all.

43 thoughts on “Man Made vs. Nature Made Global Warming Arguments With Merit

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention » Man Made vs. Nature Made Global Warming Arguments With Merit The Millennial Star -- Topsy.com

  2. Bruce, at least you’re showing you are looking at other arguments and considering them. You are ahead of at least 99 percent of the people out there, so you get many gold stars in my book.

    I sent you some information on the Urban Heat Index. You may want to consider this subject in a future post. For those unfamiliar with this subject, one of the major causes of warming is the fact that cities are warmer than rural or suburban areas because of all the concrete and heat generated by cars, airplanes, etc. So it is natural to think that as urban areas grew over time they would generate additional heat. Many urban areas are at least twice the size they were 50 years ago. Many of the temperature gauges were placed at airports, which had relatively little traffic 80 years ago but have a lot more traffic (jet engines, etc) now. Some climate scientists have tried to incorporate estimations of the UHI in their temperature records but refused to release the information as to how they adjusted for the UHI. Climategate e-mails proved this.

    To sum up: much of the increase in global temperatures in the last 100 years is due to the UHI. How much? Like most things in climate science, we’re not sure, but it is significant.

    You can read more here:

    http://www.canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/20528

  3. Regarding the “economic disaster” argument, I hope you look into the history of some successful environmental measures and compare them to the ridiculous Kyoto accords and other global schemes to make the world poor. Just one example: the efforts to fight smog in LA were mostly successful. Why? They were based on the specific problem, the problem was not exaggerated, they were localized and they involved limited measures that directly addressed the problem at hand. The global anti-warming effort is instead not localized, the evidence has been exaggerated for political purposes and the solutions proposed so far involve broad, sweeping measures that don’t address the problem at hand.

  4. Bruce,

    Once again, very well written. I agree with you on all points. And I like that you very eloquently pointed out repeatedly, “we don’t know.” That is a point that is brushed aside way too often in arguments (from both sides) about AGW.

    And Geoff, you also have two good arguments. I never thought about it, but I’d say that a localized reduction of pollution such as your LA example would actually work better for some aspects, at least within the US. A localized response wouldn’t be effective for many other problems, however. Such as corporate pollution of third world countries or the BP disaster for example. Nonetheless, food for thought.

  5. “The earth is absorbing the CO2 argument” — the oceans are becoming more acidic as they absorb the CO2, this is not a good thing. The oceans are more acidic now than they used to be. This is just one of those annoying facts, easily checked. I suggest you look at the Wikipedia article on ocean acidification for more information.

    The “Global Warming is Just a Fancy Way of Saying Good Weather” Argument
    Tell that to the dead trees all throughout Utah, Idaho, Colorado, and even Alaska that are very easy to spot. The few degrees of warming have allowed bark beetles to complete their life cycle in one year rather than two–twice as many bark beetles equal tree death. Plants can’t move north to more chilly climes.

  6. Djinn, I have addressed the pine beetle issue before, and your comment is a great example of an example where localized solutions should be used. You don’t institute a worldwide carbon tax or cap and trade (thereby causing tens of millions of people to lose their jobs) to save pine trees in the Rockies. Environmentalists from Salazar on down are talking about localized solutions to deal with the problem.

    (I am not saying you specifically are proposing this, djinn, I am saying that others have used the pine beetle problem to justify cap and trade, which is a ludicrous argument).

  7. Seeing thousands upon thousands of acres of pinon-juniper forest transform into just juniper has been an ugly thing. Half a century ago the disappearence of elm trees was dispiriting to those who experienced it. Pestilence has been ever with us and ever will be, climate change or not.

  8. Great article and great comments, all. As one who once was an AGW Disbeliever, but now an AGW Believer, I also am one who is extremely skeptical on the massive solutions proposed.

    Cap and Trade, as it is going through Congress, is more of a tax benefits program for favored companies. It really will not perform as required, because too many credits are being passed out. I really hate a bureaucracy that thinks that good intentions and words equals good solutions.

    Kyoto was another disaster. What good is it to destroy/damage the American economy, when China and India did not have a dog in the race? They would have continued polluting unabated, while we would be forced to shrink our economy drastically. And what did scientists believe to be the end result? Almost nothing over the next century.

    Bruce, when you are finished discussing the current issues of ABW Disbelievers, I hope you will spend time also discussing the “solutions” that have been proposed.

  9. Bruce,

    I think one of the best arguments on the part of the “deniers” is the problem with positive feedback. We really don’t know how stable or unstable the climate is. But some of the pro-AGWer’s predictions (especially by Hansen and the like) seem to be a little on the wild side — with enough runaway feedback in the system that one would wonder how the climate was ever stable enough to support life.

  10. I think a concern I have with the way this discussion gets framed come from the assumptions. Like the assumption that climate isn’t supposed to change, or that things are supposed to stay the way we want them to be.

    4 — Trees move all the time. Their seeds get scattered in a variety of ways, and those that are in a more favorable condition are more likely to thrive. Individual trees die, but species move, adapt, or, if they can’t compete, die out and make room for those who can. This isn’t survival of the cutest, furriest, most loved or most economically viable.

  11. Blain, I think the whole desire to “fix” global warming comes from the environmentalists’ sense that man caused the problem of increasing CO2 and therefore should resolve it. As many people say, the global “solutions” proposed will not work and have unacceptable costs. If the problem really is as dire as many people claim (and I really doubt it is), there needs to be localized, more focused solutions.

    But you are exactly right that the concern that global temperatures should be a certain level and stay that way is nonsensical given the fact that global climate has always changed and always will.

  12. There isn’t the slightest evidence for positive feedback. Wishful thinking, confirmation bias, doom and gloom, scientific corruption, whatever.

    The cycles in the geological record show carbon dioxide level rises universally following temperature rises by about 800 years, not preceding them. That is very strong evidence that the AGW folks have got the causation backwards. And they call themselves scientists.

  13. “There isn’t the slightest evidence for positive feedback. Wishful thinking, confirmation bias, doom and gloom, scientific corruption, whatever.”

    mark, are you a scientist?

  14. The only species dumb enough to voluntarily cause its own extinction is man. That is what is behind the AGW.

  15. Mark D. said,

    There isn’t the slightest evidence for positive feedback.

    I’d have to disagree. But of course we can throw URLs at each other all day and not come any closer to an understanding of the actual science. I’d suggest that everyone leave our political biases at the door to the library and research both sides of the issue. Not just the ones that we agree with.

    Geoff B said,

    I think the whole desire to “fix” global warming comes from the environmentalists’ sense that man caused the problem of increasing CO2 and therefore should resolve it.

    My personal take on this is that CO2 is a smoke screen (pun intended ;-) ). By this I mean that in the current public eye, and in most all of the arguments about global warming, the issue of CO2 has regrettably vastly overshadowed the many other forms of pollution.

    Air pollution is important because of the health problems it causes, even if AGW is false. But mostly obscured because of the media barrage of global warming is how the pollution of water and soil is an epidemic for some people, even here in the US. To use water pollution as an example:

    Nationally, 57% of all major industrial and municipal facilities discharged more pollution into U.S. waterways than their permits allow at least once during the 18-month period studied.
    Major facilities exceeding their Clean Water Act permits, on average, exceeded their permit limits by about 263%, or almost four times the allowed amount.
    According to EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory, polluters discharged more than 221.8 million pounds of toxic chemicals into our waterways in 2003 alone.
    Approximately 39% of our rivers, 46% of our lakes, and 51% of our estuaries are still too polluted for safe fishing or swimming.
    Pollution caused nearly 25,000 beach closings in 2006, the highest level in 17 years.
    In 2006, 32 states had statewide fish consumption advisories in place because of toxic pollution.
    At least 850 billion gallons of raw sewage are dumped into U.S. waterways every year. U.S. sewer systems are aging; by 2025, sewage pollution will reach the highest levels in U.S. history without significant investment in wastewater treatment infrastructure.

    And so yes Geoff: I do sense that since man caused the problem, man should resolve it.

    Blain said,

    Trees move all the time. Their seeds get scattered in a variety of ways, and those that are in a more favorable condition are more likely to thrive. Individual trees die, but species move, adapt, or, if they can’t compete, die out and make room for those who can. This isn’t survival of the cutest, furriest, most loved or most economically viable.

    Rather snarky, but true. But how does that impact what djinn said? Your statement does not oppose what he (she?) said as they can both be true at the same time. Thus this is not a valid argument.

    If you meant to say that the completely unusual rise of the pine beetle in the West is a natural occurrence, then you may have an argument. As is typical with most issues, there are a number of factors to take into account. You can’t focus on just one and hope to see the big picture. Part of the reason for the epidemic is the monoculture of pine trees in some areas created by clear-cut mining about 100 years ago. Also the very strong efforts to combat fires near populated areas has set the natural process of removing old and failing trees on it’s head, thus allowing more host trees for the beetles. And there is also the severe drought conditions in recent years that have created even more terminal host trees. Now was this localized drought caused by global warming or is it a natural process? I personally haven’t researched this yet and so I don’t know. I’ll keep my final opinion on this until I know more about it.

  16. oh, hit the submit button too soon.

    i think the video is extremely informative. but i’m a believer in the science. unfortunately, those that want to vilify the scientists and environmentalists (yeah, we are a dirty, sinister lot) will only hear what they want to hear.

    but i appreciate your comments and especially your links and citations.

  17. James, regarding drought, last year in Physics Today (a monthly magazine published by the American Institute of Physics for members of its member societies), a couple letters to the editor called one of their reporters to task for overreaching in her piece on climate change in the American Southwest. The reporter back pedaled claiming “I mention the low water levels in Lake Mead among my examples, but I did not mean to imply that the study could impute the causes of such local conditions.

    “Later in the story, I discuss Lake Mead in more detail. Both Gallagher and Robert Ayers have read more into that part than is actually there. I made no assertions about the current drought but rather reported on a prediction about possible future drought conditions. In particular, I cite work by Barnett and David Pierce, who estimated that the current level of water withdrawals from Lake Mead is unsustainable if one folds in climate model predictions that river runoff into the region will fall 10%-30% by 2050. Barnett and Pierce are not claiming that the current dry conditions are due to global warming.”

    (Physics Today link)

    To give a sense of the recurrence of drought, here is a bit from a 2004 USGS fact sheet, “Climatic Fluctuations, Drought, and Flow in the Colorado River Basin”:

    Long-Term Perspective on Drought Duration in the Colorado River Basin

    The length of observational records of climate and hydro-logic conditions in the Colorado River basin is generally less than 100 years. Researchers, however, generally prefer to assess episodes like drought, which have a multiyear character, using time frames of centuries rather than decades. One way to do so is to extend the observational records of climate using proxy records; that is, to use variables that are indicative of climate, such as annual bands in coral, lake sediment deposits, and tree-ring widths, for which much longer records exist. Analyses of tree rings have been used extensively to reconstruct the history of drought in the United States for the past 800 years. Tree-ring reconstructions of precipitation in northern Utah (Gray and others, in press) indicate that, since 1226 A.D., nine droughts have occurred lasting 15-20 years and four droughts have occurred lasting more than 20 years. Moreover, tree-ring records indicate that some past droughts in the Colorado River basin persisted for several decades (Meko and others, 1995). Such findings from the tree-ring record, coupled with new findings about the connection between the AMO and drought frequency (McCabe and others, 2004), suggest that the current drought could continue for several more years. Alternatively, the three droughts that affected the basin during the 20th century (Fig. 3) each lasted from 4 to 11 years, indicating that the current dry conditions could shift to wetter conditions at any time.

  18. mfranti, we would prefer that you not engage our other commenters in the dismissive manner of your comment to Mark D. Most participants here are laymen and are welcome to opine, with or without credentials or scientific rigor. If it helps your reading experience, I have a PhD in fluid dynamics from Johns Hopkins University, where I took a few courses in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and also interacted a bit with the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering. Prior to that I worked a couple years at Los Alamos National Lab in the Earth and Environmental Science Division. Most of my work since school has been much more technological than environmental, but there was a three-year period that about half my work involved reducing particulate and SO2 emissions at power plants. If you’d like to tell us about your environmental background, feel welcome.

  19. john. i’m very sorry. i wasn’t trying to be dismissive to Mark. I was wondering if he has any science background.

    I’ve found that those that haven’t had any physical science (geog, biogeog, geology, et al.) and a good understanding of the sci process (which it appears that you do) often don’t fully understand how important the issue of AGW is.

    I’m not a hardcore lefty environmental extremist. I’m not sure how I feel about carbon credits and other legislation. I’m more a fan of old fashioned conservation and efficiency (you should appreciate that as a physicist, no?) I advocate for common sense approaches–that start in the home. I’m annoyed with the anything that has the terms green,eco and sustainable(ok, not all on the last one) in them because it’s just a clever way to get ppl to buy more stuff.

    my background? ha! i’m just a lowly student in Geography and Env. Studies with a few months more to go before i start my masters in Geography. My focus is in remote sensing (google it) and I have a great love, LOVE love for Biogeography ( I heard ocean acidification and bark beetle above and my little ears perked up because i’ve actually done a fair amount of research on both issues. they are two examples of how the AGW debate is so much more than a political and philosophical debate. things are going on our Earth, behind the scenes of these online debates and op-ed pieces and they are symptoms of a really big issue. One that I fear cannot be changed because money is on the line.

    sometimes, i’m optimistic about this stuff. most times,i’m not. doesn’t stop me from doing what i can.

    again, i’m sorry if i came across as dismissive in the first comment. I’ll take credit for the snark in the second (or is that the third?)comment? feel free to delete my comments if they are not in line with the tone of MStar.

  20. oh my … i can’t edit my comments! that’s a big reason why i don’t comment at other blogs. i’m spoiled that way.

    i blame brian, he sent me over here.

  21. Joanna, thanks for the welcome. i’m just passing through while i wait for a very important phone call.

    oh…

    i promise i can spell. when i really have to.

  22. Mfranti, not so good at punctuation, however. :)

    I’m not a scientist but have been reading extensively about global warming for 22 years. In all modesty, I know more about the issue than most of the scientists who have come here to comment. I regularly read comments or posts by scientists that show their knowledge of the subject is actually quite shallow (although to be fair, they are not climate scientists). To be quite frank, I think many scientists read the main science journals which are all pro-AGW and just assume that the science must be valid because if Nature and Science and Scientific American believe in global warming than they must as well. That’s kind of like reading Christianity Today and the primary Catholic journals and assuming you know all there is to know about Christianity. It surprises evangelicals and the occasional Catholic priest I talk to that I actually know the Bible better than they do — it also surprises many scientists who have accepted the pro-AGW storyline that a non-scientist like myself knows more than they do about the subject of global warming.

    We need to stop assuming that a few years in school (studying another scientific discipline) automatically makes you an expert on all areas of science, just as we know that going to divinity school means you may be missing a few things about religion that are pretty important.

  23. No problem mfranti- I can neither spell or type. Please feel free to stop by again.

    Bruce I have enjoyed your series. Thanks for expanding my knowledge in these matters.

  24. mfranti says,

    i appreciate your comments and especially your links and citations

    Thank you! [blush...]

    Geoff B said,

    it also surprises many scientists who have accepted the pro-AGW storyline that a non-scientist like myself knows more than they do about the subject of global warming

    Yes, I’d agree you’ve shown that you do know quite a lot on the subject. It does appear to me that it is particularly one-sided though.

    Geoff B also said,

    To be quite frank, I think many scientists read the main science journals which are all pro-AGW and just assume that the science must be valid because if Nature and Science and Scientific American believe in global warming than they must as well.

    I’m sure this is true for a few (but definitely not all) of them. Can you please show me that you deny AGW for reasons other than that your political party denies it? In all of your arguments so far I have not seen even a slight differentiation between your views and those of the Libertarian/GOP/Tea Party views on the subject. Thus, to be quite frank, I see no difference between you and the scientists you just demeaned.

  25. James, you don’t know me that well, but I have taken a lot of positions that contradict my “political party.” I am pro-immigrant, against the death penalty and generally anti-war and pro-globalization. In my mind, I go where the evidence takes me, although I recognize that other intelligent people allow the evidence to take them in other directions.

    On this particular subject, the evidence seems to take me to a position that is shared by Republicans/libertarians/tea party people. On other subjects, such as immigration or the death penanlty, the evidence goes in a direction that is opposite from what most Republicans/liberatrians/tea party people believe.

    James, I am simply stating what evidence has shown me. I have yet to see convincing arguments on the pro-AGW side. I am have yet to see convincing evidence that immigrants are destroying the country and that we should implement laws like the new one in AZ.

    Again, I would like to point out that nearly all of the scientists with whom I have argued this issue are not climate scientists. It is literally impossible to be an expert on all subjects, yet interestingly there is a long list of scientists in other fields who like to take the pro-AGW position. Why is that? The evidence seems pretty clear, especially because their arguments are alarmingly weak, that they simply are accepting the “consensus,” although there is no such thing. So are they taking the “party line” of their political party? The answer seems to be yes.

  26. Geoff B said,

    On this particular subject, the evidence seems to take me to a position that is shared by Republicans/libertarians/tea party people.

    You are right in that I don’t know you well. And if I offended by my comment above, I apologize. I made a poor assumption based on your previous anti-government comments.

    I am a centrist (with a very strong anti-extremist bent) and so I tend to choose reasonable positions from both the Dems and the GOP. So it would seem that in our political stances, we are somewhat similar in how we pick and choose the best and throw away the worst. So thanks for the clarification. The basic difference is not necessarily our politics after all it would seem, but instead how we each personally choose what is best and worst.

    Geoff B also said,

    James, I am simply stating what evidence has shown me. I have yet to see convincing arguments on the pro-AGW side.

    And I am doing the same. And I have yet to see convincing arguments on the anti-AGW side. As I had mentioned in a comment from Bruce’s first post, it’s extremely clear to me from all evidence that I’ve found that man-made CO2 is affecting the climate. To tell me otherwise would be like telling me 2 + 2 = 0, or that a red rose is green. It flies in the face of logic.

    However the degree in which CO2 is affecting the climate, and the long term effects of such an unnatural increase are still very valid arguments. It could be a negligible effect, or it could be armageddon. Being a centrist at heart, I tend to think it’s probably somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. And I’ve read evidence that tend to support that assumption, but it is not entirely conclusive. And of course the evidence both for and against the two extremes are nowhere near conclusive either.

    But as I’ve said over and over again since Bruce began this very good series of posts: even if the effect of CO2 on the climate is negligible, it is still pollution. Air pollution still harms people and makes them sick, no matter if AGW is true or not. And for just this reason alone I wish for more reasonable regulation of pollution of all kinds.

  27. To be fair, I am far from a centrist on the issues that I care about — I am a libertarian on economic policy and completely free-trade, for example.

    James, we may not be that far apart even though I am definitely not a centrist on some issues. It will be interesting to see what Bruce proposes after all of this. I am all for doing a “cost-benefit analysis” on issues like global warming. If we were able to clean up CO2 at relatively small economic cost and work on local solutions, rather than a senseless global accord, I would probably say, “no problem.” As I have said before, the only reason I care passionately about this issue is that many people are proposing misguided global policies that will cost millions of jobs and have no real effect on the problem. In addition, they are bolstering their claims with a huge amount of exaggeration for political reasons. Many of the proposals will decrease individual liberty in alarming ways. That is a recipe for disaster. If their proposals were more modest and not as likely to destroy personal liberty, and the evidence was not so exaggerated for political reasons, you would probably never hear me comment at length on this subject.

  28. “even if the effect of CO2 on the climate is negligible, it is still pollution. Air pollution still harms people and makes them sick, no matter if AGW is true or not.”

    CO2 in high concentrations is toxic, it’s true, but your exhalations are higher in CO2 at your nostrils than the air is 100 yards from a smoke stack. Being a product of combustion doesn’t make CO2 a pollutant any more than it does H2O. Effect as a greenhouse gas is the only reason to consider controlling CO2 emissions; otherwise it is harmless.

  29. John M, when I say deal with it as a local issue, I am talking about the potential negative effects of climate change on pine beetles, etc. My point is that any claim that any solution to fight CO2 must include a cost-benefit analysis and must look at other, less costly solutions. You can mount an operation to cut down the damaged pine trees (and even in some cases burn them down) in the Colorado Rockies rather than propose a worldwide CO2 tax.

  30. > … Second, that there was no CO2 from industry back then, so this proves warming happens on its own. …
    > The second argument is (to use a stock market analogy again) like saying that because the stock market
    > once went up due to one known cause that this proves the current stock market run, centuries later,
    > must be the same cause. I trust you see the problem.

    Actually, the second argument does have some merit. To use the stock market analogy, if some people claim the current stock market run is unprecedented and must therefore be due to computer-automated trading, pointing out that there was a similar stock market run centuries before the invention of computers is a valid criticism of the claim.

    In other words, to claim that the Medieval Warming Period proves that the current warming is natural is invalid. But the MWP does show that warming can happen naturally, and therefore — contrary to those who claim the current warming must be mostly or entirely due to human activity — it is possible the current warming could be mostly or entirely natural.

  31. John Mansfield said,

    Effect as a greenhouse gas is the only reason to consider controlling CO2 emissions; otherwise it is harmless.

    True, CO2 is not entirely the same as air pollution. I should have been clearer about that. Nonetheless, the form of polluting that causes excess CO2 also causes my eyes to water and makes it hard to breath when I enter a big city. It makes visiting Salt Lake City at times absolutely intolerable because of the intensity of smog during an inversion. More than 500,000 Americans die each year from cardiopulmonary disease linked to breathing fine particle air pollution. Also, see here, here and here for more info on the effects of air pollution.

    Thus I will stand by my statement above: Air pollution still harms people and makes them sick, no matter if AGW is true or not.

    Geoff B said,

    It will be interesting to see what Bruce proposes after all of this.

    Yeah I agree. I’m looking forward to it.

    Geoff B said this too,

    As I have said before, the only reason I care passionately about this issue is that many people are proposing misguided global policies that will cost millions of jobs and have no real effect on the problem. In addition, they are bolstering their claims with a huge amount of exaggeration for political reasons. Many of the proposals will decrease individual liberty in alarming ways.

    I’ll be the first to agree that “political reasons” from both sides have corrupted this topic beyond recognition. And I’ll also agree that most of the global policies are very misguided. But that doesn’t mean they all are. The cap and trade idea is detrimental and ineffectual in my view, for example. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be a massive global or national initiative into alternative energy research. That doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be some form of worldwide regulation of pollution in general. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t restrict large corporations from raping the land of some poor third world country. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have completely deregulated the oil industry, thus causing the BP disaster. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be responsible for our actions.

    I personally think that the only way out of this mess is to somehow find an alternative method to power our civilization’s needs. Even if the oil isn’t running out, even if AGW is false, even if the science is made up and politicized; we are still poisoning our planet and harming thousands upon thousands of people. Not to mention the harmful effects upon our biosphere and the untold repercussions that entails. The BP disaster is just the latest and (for the US media) the most obvious example.

    If there is any good that could ever come out of the horrifying disaster that is unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico, it is the hope that this pushes the US to research alternative energy more forcefully. I’m not holding my breath though…

  32. James,

    Re: #14 — The 850 billion gallons of raw sewage amounts to about .6% of the Mississippi’s annual flow at New Orleans — that’s if I’ve done my math right, figuring a flow of 600,000 cubic feet per second. Now, if we go on and figure the total discharge of all U.S. rivers into the ocean — which I’m not exactly sure how to do — then we’d probably be getting a rather insignificant number. And then on top of that we’d need to figure how much of the sewage would be purified naturally by water flow, evaporation, etc.

    A say this just to add a little perspective to the numbers — and I’m sure that the same perspective could be applied to other of the EPA’s numbers, though not necessarily all.

    That said, I do agree that we need to keep improving waste management and do all we can to support such efforts in developing counties.

  33. Jack,

    You posit a bad analogy and don’t take into consideration other vectors of how raw sewage affects the environment. You compare the 850 billion gallons of raw sewage to the Mississippi’s annual flow and then to the entire nation’s discharge of water. If all or most of the sewage drained directly into the waterways and was thus diluted as you describe, then I’d agree with you.

    However not all local pollution makes it’s way as easily as you describe to a free flowing stream or river to be carried away. It instead seeps into the aquifers and other forms of groundwater used by the local population. Or the pollution is taken to a slightly more stagnant portion of the water table that will eventually be cleared by water flow after a period of time. And during that time it is being used by the populace as well as being filled constantly by more pollution and so thus is never cleaned.

  34. James,

    I agree with you on those problems. However, I could have approached my analogy from a different angle, e.g., total fresh water volume. Rivers account for only 2% percent of the total fresh water volume on the planet. 87% percent is found in fresh water lakes and the rest in swamps. Assuming that a similar distribution of water exists in the U.S. the 850 billion gallons of sewage becomes almost meaningless — in terms of numbers. Also, I could include in my analogy the kinds of technologies that are used to make water clean and drinkable.

    Now I’m not suggesting that there isn’t a problem. I think there is and I think we need to keep working on it. But on the other hand, let’s be grateful that we’re not living in Venezuelan “ranchitos”, where the sewage system is no more than “runoff” down the hill between dwellings.

  35. Nonetheless, the form of polluting that causes excess CO2 also causes my eyes to water and makes it hard to breath when I enter a big city

    Guilt by association?

  36. Jack said,

    Now I’m not suggesting that there isn’t a problem. I think there is and I think we need to keep working on it. But on the other hand, let’s be grateful that we’re not living in Venezuelan “ranchitos”, where the sewage system is no more than “runoff” down the hill between dwellings.

    I’ll agree with you there. It could be a lot worse.

  37. Pingback: » Stephen McIntyre and Global Warming Believer’s Ethics The Millennial Star

  38. Unhappy for the large recollect, but I’m real amative the new Zune, and wish this, as advisable as the superior reviews many added grouping score engrossed, faculty support you settle if it’s the paw deciding for you.

  39. Robot menager said:
    > Unhappy for the large recollect, but I’m real amative the new Zune, and wish this, as advisable as the
    > superior reviews many added grouping score engrossed, faculty support you settle if it’s the paw
    > deciding for you.

    While, as a conservative, I am not very amative of the new Zune, I can understand how the added grouping score engrossed you. But even with faculty support, I do not think the issue of global warming can be settled by simply allowing the paw to decide.

    P.S. I hope your recollects of all sizes become happier.

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